Ever since that fateful encounter in Eden, snakes—or, at least in modern times, patterns inspired by their ravishing reticulated markings—have slithered in and out of fashion. Currently back in vogue, reptile-like prints have been seen wrapped around such celebs as Veronica Webb, Tabitha Soren and Sandra Bernhard. Just last month, Melissa Etheridge attended the premiere of The Net in L.A. in a silk python-patterned shirt. "I think snake is a classic, like leopard," says designer Cynthia Rowley, whose faux serpentile fashions have rattled clients including Annie Lennox and Tori Spelling. "It's sexy, chic, very Vegas."
Translated into everything from satin dresses to leather stiletto-heeled shoes, today's snakeskin is mostly imitation—a summer counterpart to winter's fake furs. "Think of all the people in the '70s with their real snakeskin boots, pants and hats," says Valerie Steele, assistant professor at New York City's Fashion Institute of Technology. "The fakes being shown these days are kind to animals but still carry some of that cool and evil look."
But not everyone has given up on the genuine article. Designer Nicole Miller used phony prints in most of her collection but went for the real thing when it came to belts. Not to worry. "They were bad snakes," she says reassuringly. "Road kill. Poisonous."